Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rerun: Rules for cutting

Rules for cutting was originally posted on July 7, 2005. This was a more concrete set of rules than the famous rules of "take what they give you, fake them into giving you what you want, fake until they give you something".

Anyway, the post:

1. Cut sharp.
2. Cut hard.
3. Cut decisively
4. Think, but only before or after the cut.
5. Know when to just run.

Cut sharp. Don’t round your cuts. Plant on one foot, push off hard, and go. The longer it takes you to change direction, the less separation you will get from your defender.
Cut hard. Don’t jog out there when you are actively cutting. One place where this is especially important is at the start of a deep cut. For your first 3-6 steps, go all out without looking up or back, until you’re near top speed and have some separation and can check back to see whether the throw is up and where it’s going. Further, cut hard when you’re the decoy in a called play, or else an astute defender will know that it’s a fake.
Cut decisively. As Idris said, “Oh, you had ‘em.” You really only have time for one or two efforts before you become a clog. Commit to something, if that doesn’t work, quickly try something else, and if you don’t think you’re open in the first three steps, get the hell out of the way.
Think, but only before or after the cut. During the setup phase of the cut, you might have a chance to think about what you’re going to do, and can try to manipulate the defender into giving you a straight path to the disc. But once you are in motion, you can only react. You need to internalize all the small details (defender body position, field space, playing conditions)
that let you know whether you’re open or not without having to think about it. After the cut, you can think about what it was that made it work or not so that you build up your experience, until eventually it will become more of an instinct.
Know when to just run. You need to learn when you can just sprint in a straight line and be open. Fortunat calls these “opportunity cuts.” These arise when you know that the disc has changed positions but the defender does not, because you have kept him busy enough that he can’t check in. But this also arises in the middle of a faking sequence, when you can recognize the exact moment that the defender has committed himself to another direction and you can cut behind him.

I was thinking that I should have added a rule about clearing, and I noted that the book (page 52) has a fourth rule of "actively get out of the way when someone else has a better cut". These anti-cuts are basically just moving in the opposite direction from where you would cut. When the flow goes right, the anti-cut goes left. Simple English communication can help to achieve this, as players talk to each other to establish priority.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rerun: Mechanical cutting

Mackey occasionally cites an old article of mine, so I thought I would get in the rerun business. I will begin to repost old articles, with addenda as necessary.

I noticed that it took me 50 or 60 posts to write something technical. Was I afraid of cannibalizing sales? Did it just not occur to me? Should "decision-making" count? Anyway, on June 14, 2005, three months into the blog (when I was making posts almost daily), I wrote Mechanical Cutting, reprinted below.
Mechanical cutting
I noticed that some of the tryouts this weekend cut very mechanically. They might fake, but then their actions do not depend at all on what their defender does. They don't even appear to be watching the defender at all.

Idris talked about this in his Oh you had 'em blog entry. Players just don't seem to realize when they're open. I commented there, "Bad players either plan too many fakes or else they get so caught up in trying to read the defender that they misread him. Instead, do a simple fake, expect that it's going to work, but be ready to do something else after 2 or 3 steps if you see that it hasn't worked."

Maybe the way to drill this is to have them watch real cutters and defenders and attempt to identify the exact moment at which the cutter simply needs to move in a straight line to get open. Anything a cutter does after that is at best inefficient and at worst the first part of a miscommunication turnover.

We sometimes say that a cutter has several seconds and several options before he has to clear, but that includes the setup time, which should occur before the disc is live.
1. The setup. As the disc is in the air to the new thrower, the cutter moves into position and might do a little bit of juking, but is basically trying to force the defender into a repositioning error.
2. The cut. Make a final sell and then go hard in one direction, making a commitment. THEN you evaluate whether you'll be open. When you get good, you'll know as you're making that hard move whether or not you're successful. If not,
3. The 2nd cut. Turn 90 or 180 degrees and go hard that way. If that's not open, clear. The only exception is when you're in an iso situation with a lot of field and the defender overcommits to the 2nd cut, and you are 100% guaranteed to be open in a good place if you return to your original direction.

I guess basketball players work on their fakes by themselves, repeating until they've internalized the sequences, but they will still need the feedback of whether their defenders are going to buy the fakes.

Addendum: in the ho stack, as was pointed out to me the other day, the thrower might want to give the lane cutter an extra cut before turning away, since there is still room for a 20+ yarder after a deep cut without poaching or clogging. I guess that is just the "exception" mentioned in point #3.

Also, what about when a defender really studies and learns an offensive player's moves? As mentioned in the post that spurred this idea, this can happen after only one or two instances, but what if a defender really learns the tendencies and internalizes them? (I mean, beyond just a simple bait.)